School v School: UNC vs. UVA


Should you go to school in the Research Triangle or Virginia? What’s the benefit to each location and the MBA programs offered? How do you choose which school is best? You have to look at everything from the cost of living to employment and more.

Recently, our School v. School series compared Duke Fuqua to UVA Darden—you can find the comparison here. Now, we’re comparing UVA Darden to another top school in the Research Triangle, UNC Kenan-Flagler, to see how the two schools stack up.

UVA vs UNC: Location

Chapel Hill, home to UNC Kenan-Flagler, and Charlottesville, home to UVA Darden, are both great places to live. Each are great college towns with fantastic weather, lots of things to do, and beautiful locations. Charlottesville is home to rolling vineyards, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the red brick Downtown Mall; one of the country’s best shopping districts. Chapel Hill is known for its outdoor cafes, public art murals, food festivals, and the North Carolina Botanical Garden—calling itself “the southern part of Heaven.”

Both cities are rich in culture and attractions. However, for affordability, Charlottesville edges out Chapel Hill, particularly when it comes to housing costs. You’ll pay almost 1/3 less for a house in Charlottesville and have better job prospects due to growth.

  • Cost of Living: Chapel Hill is 9.3 percent more expensive than Charlottesville.
  • Housing: Median home cost is 27.8 percent more expensive in Chapel Hill.
  • Education: Chapel Hill spends 20.3 percent less per student, and they have a 14 percent higher student to teacher ratio than Charlottesville. 
  • Commute: Residents in Chapel Hill commute 1.9 percent longer than residents of Charlottesville—20 versus 18 minutes.
  • Jobs: Future job growth for both cities is above average for the U.S. with Charlottesville (42.7 percent) just edging out Chapel Hill (36.9 percent).

UVA vs UNC: Rankings

Comparing UVA Darden and UNC Kenan-Flagler in the rankings gives Darden a decided edge. In every major ranking, Darden is quite a few steps higher, particularly when it comes to global rankings. In the Financial Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, and The Economist Darden is at least 15 ranks higher. However, when it comes to U.S. rankings, they’re more evenly matched, so if you’re only looking at MBA programs within the U.S., both schools offer comparable programs.

PublicationUVA DardenUNC Kenan-Flagler
U.S. News & World Report1219 (tie)
Bloomberg (Global)926
Financial Times (Global)2352
The Economist (Global)930

UVA vs UNC : Cost

Image result for uva darden campus

UVA Darden enrolls around 335 MBA students in each class.

Whether you choose UVA Darden or UNC Kenan-Flagler, you need to prepare for $100,000 in academic and living costs each year. The difference in tuition is under $5,000, which is relatively negligible. Just remember that cost of living in Chapel Hill is going to be more, so if you need to buy or rent a house when going to UNC, expect to pay more.

UVA Darden offers numerous merit-based scholarships for MBA students, most of which do not require an additional application. Scholarship awards include both full and partial-tuition. There are also women, minority, LGTBQ, military, international, and U.S. regional scholarships.

UNC Kenan-Flagler also offers numerous fellowships and scholarships. There are both premier and full-tuition fellowships covering the tuition cost and potentially even an annual stipend of $5,000. There are also private scholarships available from outside organizations such as the Noble Argus Foundation.

Annual ExpensesUVA DardenUNC Kenan-Flagler
Full Costs (tuition, books, fees, etc.)$97,524$91,946

UVA vs UNC : Post-Graduation Employment

The job market demand for UVA Darden and UNC Kenan-Flagler students is strong. About 94 percent of the MBA Class of 2018 received job offers within three months of graduation at both schools. However, UVA Darden graduates can expect to earn slightly higher salaries with an overall compensation of around $162,000 for the first year compared to just $145,000 for graduates of Kenan-Flagler.

What truly makes the difference for MBA graduates is your industry of interest:

  • MBA students interested in consulting should choose UVA Darden, since 32 percent of their graduating class entering the consulting industry compared to just 15 percent at UNC Kenan-Flagler.
  • However, students interested in technology would be better served at Kenan-Flagler since the largest number of their graduates (21 percent) enter the technology industry compared to 18 percent for UVA Darden.
  • As for financial services, it’s the second most-chosen industry for graduates at both schools, earning 20 percent of graduates at Kenan-Flagler and 26 percent at Darden.
CompensationUVA DardenUNC Kenan-Flagler
Annual Salary Average$127,767$120,000
Average Signing Bonus$35,430$25,000

Direct Comparison: UVA Darden vs UNC Kenan-Flagler

Image result for unc kenan flagler campus

UNC Kenan-Flagler enrolls approximately 276 students per year.

UVA Darden and UNC Kenan-Flagler are both excellent business schools when it comes right down to it. Both are somewhat comparable in the rankings for U.S. programs, they cost relatively the same every year, and graduates from either school will earn a competitive salary—just a little more for Darden graduates.

But when we start looking at specific details, more and more differences between the two business schools come to light.

Both schools offer a full-time MBA and two executive MBA programs. However, UNC Kenan-Flagler also offers an Online MBA option (the top ranked in the country, according to U.S. News). So, if you’re looking for the most flexibility when it comes to your MBA program, UNC might be a better choice.

MBA Concentrations

Both UVA Darden and UNC Kenan-Flagler offer a variety of curricula concentrations so that MBA students can tailor their education to their chosen career or industry. There’s quite a bit of overlap between the programs with corporate finance, consulting, marketing, analytics, entrepreneurship, and sustainable business being offered by both.

However, there are some differences. UVA Darden offers curriculum in a range of business management areas, including supply chain management, global business, and business development and growth. On the other hand, UNC Kenan-Flagler chooses to focus on unique industries such as real estate, energy, and healthcare.

UVA DardenUNC Kenan-Flagler
Asset Management / Sales & TradingCapital Markets & Investments
Corporate Finance / Investment BankingConsulting
EntrepreneurshipCorporate Finance
Management ScienceMarketing
MarketingOperations Management
Strategy ConsultingReal Estate
Supply Chain ManagementData, Digital Analysis, and Technology
Corporate InnovationEnergy
Business Development and GrowthEntrepreneurship
Business AnalyticsHealthcare
Innovation for SustainabilitySustainable Enterprise
Global BusinessFamily Enterprise (focus area)

Teaching Methods

Darden follows the four-step Case Method learning process, dividing classes into small teams and encouraging lively discussions. Students study more than 500 real-life business cases during the Darden MBA program. As for the experiential learning opportunities, there are international field experiences, domestic field experiences, leadership courses, consulting projects, and entrepreneurship competitions.

UNC Kenan-Flagler also emphasizes the case-study method in small groups. In particular, teamwork is essential to this MBA. Starting at orientation, students are assigned a study team whom they work with closely throughout the core curriculum. There’s also an emphasis on teaching team effectiveness with multiple team experiences and opportunities for giving and receiving feedback.

Final Thoughts

There are many small differences between the two programs when you break it down into your interests and wants. UVA Darden offers higher post-grad salary expectations and a lower cost of living during enrollment. But, Kenan-Flagler offers more MBA program options, including the top-ranked Online MBA in the U.S. We recommend carefully reviewing each school to find out how the program fits your post-graduation career goals and then making a decision from there.

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About the Author

Kelly Vo    

Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and personal development.

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